Soft Start, 2014The Northern Charter, Newcastle upon Tyne
Curated in collaboration with Sam Watson with contributions by Eric Bainbridge, Paul Becker, Tilly Fowler, Maria Fusco, Sophie Michael, Josh Wilson, Eleanor Wright & Sam Watson
Thank you all for coming.
So, thank you all for coming. I just want to say a little bit about the exhibition and why I wanted to show 99 Clerkenwell Road as part of it. When I started thinking about this project, I wanted to make something about making; something that was not so much about process but more about why we make things. I suppose giving a particular reason to make something is difficult, it is usually more of a compulsion - I definitely couldn't justify this project as useful in anyway, at least not verifiably useful. So I suppose I make things, including this project, because I love them. Now, that doesn't mean that I love the things I make, it means that I love the thing I am trying to make, which is different.
Loving something is about something exterior to yourself, like loving a person or a place or an object. So I suppose I wanted to look at that thing, that object of my affection. I think at this point we must see that this is somewhat a question of taste. I mean that I am, obviously, affected in my tastes by that which went before me. So there is a role for memory and expectation in loving something, for instance, 'it is the kind I like.' When I begin to make something, often I start by putting together all the things I like whilst trying to work out the relations between them (what it is that works or is good about them) - what it is in these things that I want to take away. I would say this was in some sense essayistic, not necessarily because I am writing an essay, but that I am arguing for something through a structure of referents, objects and ideas. It is worth noting that I do not simply work with ‘the kind that I like’, but that my attitude towards the way things are, or can be, generates a place to begin. I am unexcited by thematic exhibitions; in fact I find themes reductive. They often close down and assign the artwork to a particular set of relations that usually have nothing to do with the work’s conception or realisation. I am all up for open authorship, the artwork does not simply belong to the artist, ideas should be open and collaborative in order to be truly effective.
In the exhibition and the publication I wanted to see if I could make this methodology into an editorial and curatorial way of working. A way of working that was not about process or appropriation, or, in another sense, production or ownership, but in terms of the relations between these objects. A sort of montage or, in other words, a kind of distribution, a structural and formal inquiry into the nature of appearance through perception - that one thing could be another thing at different times. So, I wanted to show 99 Clerkenwell Road because it deals with some of these ideas as a way of scoring them and providing a notation.
Thanks all for coming. So, in the previous event in this series I talked briefly about how this publication and exhibition and the accompanying events were an attempt to make something about making - or the relationship between an object of thought and a material presence. More to the point then, this object of thought is not some segregated, original form gestating in the mind, but something that is in fact invisible or incommensurable to us at the time of making. It is something we cannot grasp but that we are trying to find. So we see it in other things or parts of it in other things - in a position, in a moment, in a time, in a thing. We see a thing and maybe we get a little closer to what it is we are trying to say.
In this sense, making things is not about our ideas as much as the abandonment of our formal preconceptions and an infatuation with certain things that are outside of ourselves and which seem to speak to us. Now, this obviously sounds like fetishism and no doubt it is because this is how we operate in the world of things. What interests me here is that there could be an object that appears to have something in-itself, have an autonomy; for something to matter other than ourselves. I suppose when I was thinking about this project of 'making something because you love something else' it was this 'something else' that I found important to practice.
Perhaps if we want to make something about making it is important that we make something else, something that is exterior and fundamentally unfamiliar to ourselves. Something not known or verified. Perhaps this is how we can make something new. Now we could say this was about appearance or transformation, incomprehensibility, transcendence or materiality, but I think what really matters most, what matters when we consider why we make things, is that there is some space or stillness or surplus that seems to speak to us and we would like to facilitate the growth of that unverifiable quality. So, the two talks we are about to see are both in some way about such objects or rather, about objects of desire and so back to loving something, which is also maybe about letting go.
I have been reading through my other introductions today and have noted three main strands, which are 'making something about making', 'making something unknown', and desire as a means of 'letting go' – of truly loving something. I think in each of these ideas and perhaps generally today, we are seeing a revival in a concern with objects, not strictly objectivity (as in subjectivity without an apparent subjective bias) but about objects in themselves. A concern with their substance, their mystery, the way they work.
Now this concern is all very well but I think it is important to understand that it is we who make things, even if we are trying to make them make themselves. So at some point there is a responsibility to make things adequately in relation to the object we are concerned with, to show your hand if you like. This tends to get confusing when what we are trying to show is just the object and what we want to make is with or about that. I guess the problem is that the specific autonomy of artworks is something produced. As, I have said previously, when I started this project I wanted to avoid looking at making things via the usual lines of process/production and appropriation/ownership. The classical Structuralist mode is to show the means of production but this does tend towards process in itself being valued over what this act of showing is trying to accomplish.
Perhaps the best way of evaluating this problem and what I hoped to do with this project, is to look at practice not just as a process or product but as an ongoing way of constructing or building - a way of showing something as adequately as you can. The idea of 'making something because you love something else' then, which was the starting point to this project, is about attempting something despite its impracticality, despite the fact that you are complicit, that you might make something that is merely considered a (bad) approximation. The attempt is carried out because you must make it, because it is important. In another sense then, this is about encountering or dealing with the kind of complicated responsibility we have to something other than ourselves, the fact that we must try to say something.